The Multi-Coastal Rapper Gets Us Hyped for His Long-Awaited Debut
For a guy without even a mixtape to his name, rapper X.O Senavoe has quite a lot of buzz behind him (Google him), not to mention support. He handily won our fan-driven artist of the week competition way back in September of last year, but he’s been too busy to take his Q&A victory lap, until now that is.
Currently dividing his time between Lagos, Accra and, quite often, New York City, the American-born emcee who claims both Ghanaian and Nigerian heritage took a second to answer our questions about his latest projects and recent activities, including but not limited to appearing on Empire Mates Entertainment’s group album Empire Mates State of Mind, collaborating on a hip-hopera for Ghana’s independence celebration, and, most of all, readying his debut mixtape Xpoint0. Maybe he’s so well-known already because he gets around. Read on for the multi-coastal up-and-comer’s thoughts on the American and the African dream and the real difference between Lagos and Accra.
Love the “Happy Birthday Ghana” hip-hopera for Channel O. What was that experience like for you?
Yeah, I think the hip-opera was cool for sure. And the experience was great. Engineered by Lee Kasumba of Channel O, we, the artists put together and recorded right on the spot. The video was shot a day later or so by RGB studios’ Isaac Awuah, an #XONATION guy, who also shot “Taxi Music.” The response has been great and I’ve heard Channel O may want us to do an extended version of the hip-hopera. That would be a good look. Shout out to Lee and Channel O, indubitably one of the premier movers in this industry, for being such a great support of good music in general and of my music. Much love to them, all other such media houses, DJs, OAPs, bloggers, fans, the most valuable word of mouth, and all people who push our music to the world.
One of your best lines in that song is: “Ghana’s greatest export is peace.” Can you unpack that a little?
Oh, thanks. Well, it’s no secret that I spent several of my formative years in Ghana. During that time I came to learn simply that Ghanaians do not mess with peace. It’s an almost-innate gift that I wish most of the world would learn. With the advent of oil, however, one of my major concerns is that people will forget this most important trait and give in to the greed that seems to follow wealth. I hope not.
What can we expect from your intro mixtape and the debut album you have planned?
Good music generally, great rap, several-times-rewind-worthy lines I hope, and a unique perspective. My debut mixtape Xpoint0, which is all about ready to go, is an introduction. Crafted over the past few months, it has been a challenge for various reasons. I’ve had to split time working and featuring on several other upcoming projects, finance everything, and did co-producing on most records. I also did some engineering and mixing, alongside and under the tutelage of the main man Waxi of Sound Republic.
The mixtape has some of the best producers we have from Kid Konnect, with whom this all started, Gafacci, DJ Juls, Beewirks, and #XONATION affiliate producers Jounide, Adey and Coptic who has been a great blessing to this project. Also worked with some of our vocal talents like Efya and Lindsey and rappers like Show Dem Camp, Sauce Kid and Jayso. Xpoint0 features a blend of rap, song writing layered with musicality. It addresses topics from perseverance, determination, and defying odds to trail-blazing, love, loss, having a good time. You know, it’s all real. The fact that no moment is promised is as real to me as air because death has hit too close to home a few times. If there’s a theme in my music, it’s that you gotta make the most of every day and moment.
[In the project] I draw many parallels with Coming To America, one of my favorite movies of all time. The idea that Akeem (played by Eddie Murphy), a prince who was comfortable, respected, and living what others may call a dream life, would go so far out of his comfort zone to accomplish his dream. Akeem’s dream was finding a queen who loved him for who he was, not for what he was. And in my case, the dream is to make the most of God-given potential. The ending scene of the movie where both worlds, the McDowells and Joffers come together to celebrate in Zamunda is what I envisioned whenever I wanted to give up or was frustrated by folks who didn’t understand why I would do music – the Semmi’s of my world, so to speak. The end justifies the struggle. Xpoint0 is just the beginning! It says “hello” or “what’s up.”
The debut album, which will follow, says: “we’re here to stay and be a huge presence in music.” Musically, the debut album, which will be different from Xpoint0, will feature more big-sound, radio, club songs and so on.
Do you feel influenced by current music in both Nigeria and Ghana?
Without a doubt. That’s home and there’s no place like home. I’m influenced each day, not just by the music, but also by our stories and struggles, fears and hopes, and the heights I know we can reach. Influenced, but not limited by it. Growing up I listened to my father’s old records from Simon & Garfunkel, Pointer Sisters, Agya Koo Nimo, and Fela Kuti to The Ramblers. I am a huge Michael Jackson fan and actually won a few dance competitions in college as Michael Jackson with our crew, the Smooth Criminals. But I’m definitely influenced by good music by fellow musicians at home.
How is your azonto?
My azonto dance skills? Terrible. Ok, maybe not so terrible, but the dance is a better look when I’m not doing it. I love it though, and need to step my game way up. Shout out to all my guys with azonto joints out. Some of my favorites are R2Bees’ “Ajeii” and Fuse and Tiffany as well as Wizkid’s song both called “Azonto.” Let’s just say right now, you don’t wanna learn the azonto dance from me. At least not yet.
Can you compare the vibe in Lagos vs. Accra?
Lagos is more of an Energizer Bunny environment – it’s always on the go, a bigger music market and has more opportunities generally and entertainment-related, not only because of its size but also due to the go-get-it mentality. Accra is more laid-back, and has more of a local, collegial feel, but is also fast becoming a big music performance city. Great place to record. There’s a different feeling in the air in both cities. Love and mention them both throughout my music, in lines like: “Flyer than Murtala to Kotoka (Lagos and Accra’s international airport), the local with the loco rap,” “Fly down to the A/C-c-r-a” and “I got your city going Giddy” (Las Gidi is a nickname for Lagos).
Tell us about participating in the Empire Mates State of Mind album. What was that experience like and what is your affiliation with Empire Mates? Are you going to be working with them more in the future?
It was definitely a great experience. The album, released in 2012, featured EME artists Banky W, Wizkid, Skales, Niyola, Shaydee, DJ Xclusive along with yours truly. The official affiliation grows as we continue to work in various ventures and I’m thankful whenever I get a chance to collaborate with some of the great musical talents and minds like the crew, and others from across the continent and the world. There’s more in the works with EME in the future and I’m definitely looking forward to all of it.
We understand you’ve done a little music journalism yourself in the past. What kind of music do you listen to when you want a break from hip-hop?
Yeah, I did a little. Was news editor for my college paper and also wrote music and entertainment articles for the city’s major newspaper for a few years. Let me lead off by saying my least favorite genre is bluegrass, no offense. But I listen to everything: R&B, local music (both the old sorta traditional music I grew up with and the new wave of what is narrowly being called afrobeat music), rock, folk or acoustic music and so on. Hate to be cliché, but I love good music in every form.
Anything you’d like to add?
A big shout out, first, to my XONATION guys and girls, and to all who have become like family in music. Those who have been in the trenches with me know themselves. Never-ending gratitude to Mrs. Aboagye who has been a partner in this venture. Special thanks to EME for being there and opening this particular door with the US tour. And my last, and most important, thanks goes to all the fans at home and around the world! God bless you always! As a good friend of mine, Efya, says: “We go higher”. Amen.
Check X.O’s new music video for “Taxi Music”: